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Breastfeeding not a simple solution to formula shortage for many families

Similac formula
Posted at 5:01 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 14:48:56-04

HELENA — With the formula shortage leaving shelves empty across the country, people have taken to social media to offer advice—but not all of that advice really offers viable solutions.

One common piece of advice on social media—women should just breastfeed. Even actor Bette Midler weighed in, tweeting to her more than two million followers, “TRY BREASTFEEDING! It’s free and available on demand.” But, the problem is, it’s just not that simple.

“More often, there are a lot of women that I think find that there are bumps in the road when it comes to breastfeeding,” St. Peter’s Health lactation consultant Sarah Crowley said.

As a lactation consultant, Crowley works with moms and babies right after birth to help them both learn to breastfeed. Crowley said it doesn’t always click right away.

“It’s a learning process for both you and your baby,” Crowley said. “It can take time to get just that right latch.”

According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, in Montana in 2018, about 87% of babies were breastfed at some point. By 3 months old, 58.1% of Montana babies were exclusively breastfed, and at 6 months, 31.6% of babies were exclusively breastfed; although at 6-months, nearly 62% of babies got some breastmilk.

There are a lot of reasons for these statistics. Sometimes breastfeeding babies need their diets supplemented with formula to help them gain weight. There are other challenges to exclusively breastfeeding, like returning to work full time.

A supportive workplace can make a big difference for mothers who want to keep breastfeeding, Crowley said.

“If they don’t have that support of their supervisor or the staff around them, they may not choose to pump at work,” Crowley said. “Therefore, their milk supply can go down and they may not breastfeed for as long as they intended to.”

And for some people, breastfeeding just isn’t possible.

For moms and babies that are struggling to breastfeed, there are resource available. Crowley and other lactation specialists are available at St. Peter’s Health to help out.

“My very favorite part of my job is when I see a mom all of a sudden really click with breastfeeding, and she realizes she’s got this, she can do it,” Crowley said.

For both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding moms who need help during the formula shortage, talk with a trusted source, like a health care provider or pediatrician about options if your choice formula is not available.